Multiple teams are expected to inquire about Saints head coach Sean Payton at the end of the season, per ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. Schefter mentions the Dolphins as one of those teams, and the Colts are a possibility as well. Payton is signed through the 2017 season, but that does not mean that clubs with a head coaching vacancy will not pursue a trade for Payton, who has been with New Orleans for 10 years and who may not want to oversee the rebuilding process that the Saints appear to be headed for.
As Mike Triplett of ESPN.com (via Twitter) and Schefter point out, however, Payton was the subject of similar rumors last year, and he has repeatedly shot them down. He was even mentioned as a possible candidate for the University of Michigan post last December, but his response has always been that he is not interested in any other position and that he is not, like his mentor Bill Parcells, beginning to feel the stirrings of wanderlust. Payton is 81-51 during his tenure with the Saints, and he has captured a Super Bowl championship during that time.
Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune speculates (via Twitter) that the Giants and a franchise that moves to Los Angeles could join the Dolphins and Colts as potential suitors for Payton’s services. The Dolphins, having just fired Joe Philbin, will be in the market for a head coach, and they have pursued big-name candidates in the past, including Jeff Fisher, Jon Gruden, and Jim Harbaugh. The Colts, meanwhile, are not expected to bring back Chuck Pagano, and it has been rumored that owner Jim Irsay could go “big-game hunting” at the end of the 2015 season.
Nonetheless, given Payton’s unwavering stance on the matter and what it would cost to trade for him–multiple draft picks, including at least one first-rounder, would certainly be involved–it is unlikely that he finds himself on another sideline in 2016. That is not to mention, of course, Payton’s contract: he earns $8MM per year, making him the highest-paid head coach in the league. As Adam Beasley of The Miami Herald simply tweets, “He won’t come cheap.”
Miami would likely be the most aggressive suitor, and Payton does have ties to the club. Dolphins interim head coach Dan Campbell was a tight end for the Cowboys when Payton served as Dallas’ offensive coordinator, and Campbell ended his career playing for Payton in New Orleans. Plus, as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes, “[t]he influence of Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells remains significant within Miami’s organization and Payton is one of his prized pupils.”
But it is that familiarity with the Dolphins that could harm, rather than help, Miami’s pursuit of Payton. As Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald tweets, Payton now works with Jeff Ireland, who is currently a college scout for the Saints’ after serving as the general manger of the Dolphins from 2008 through 2013. Payton also remains close with Parcells, so he is intimately familiar with all of the Dolphins’ internal issues that have hindered the club in recent seasons. Salguero adds in a separate tweet that if Payton should leave New Orleans in the future, it will be for a team that would give him control over football operations. The Dolphins currently have Mike Tannenbaum in that role, and Salguero says that is unlikely to change.
However, it only makes sense that Miami, along with a number of other teams in the league, would make a run at Payton, whose tenure with the Saints has been a largely successful one and who could bring the type of schematic and cultural change that teams crave. As of now, though, unless the Saints receive an offer too good to turn down, Payton and New Orleans appear to be in it for the long haul.